The Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) reacted strongly to Sindh health department’s statements that the infection caused by naegleria fowleri was spreading because of faulty chlorination in the board’s pipeline system.
The Disease Early Warning System confirmed five deaths from the infection in the recent months while reports from different hospitals put the figure at around ten since January 2012.
The health department had earlier conjectured that on the basis of the information collected, the possibility that the organism was in the city’s water supply could not be ruled out. It hoped that this would prompt KWSB to check the city’s water supply for safe levels of chlorination. A health official from the committee investigating the matter told The Express Tribune that they have yet to receive a reply from KWSB.
Dr Imdadullah Siddiqui, the medical services director at Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, who is a part of the committee, wrote a letter on July 25 to KWSB’s managing director in which he said that that it appeared as if the organism was in the water supply. He did not receive a reply.
Syed Zaheer Abbas, a chief engineer at KWSB, said, “We are not compelled to send them any report,” he said, arguing that he did not receive any instructions to do so either. He also claimed that KWSB chlorinates at all filtration plants according to international standards. “The organism lives in pools of stagnant water and tanks at people’s houses,” he insisted. “We can only check for its presence in our own systems and for that too we are not answerable to anyone.”
Speaking to The Express Tribune on Monday, KWSB managing director, Misbahuddin Fareed said that sufficient quantities of chlorine were being mixed in the water at the filtration plants. “KWSB has become a convenient scapegoat for officials who have failed to control the outbreak.”
The utility mixes chlorine in water at five filer plants and maintains a ratio of two parts per million, which is a little over the standards set by the World Health Organisation. But it has been reported that the levels of chlorine found in the water tanks at houses are lower than those found at the plants. KMC has already alerted staff at its hospitals about existence of the rare disease, but experts say much more needs to be done to make the public aware about the issue. The danger increases in summers as the organism multiplies in high temperatures, she said. “People should make sure that the water doesn’t get too far into the nose. That is from where the organism reaches the brain and damages it.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2012.